Charles Orcutt Snell took his big dive into the Cosmic Ocean November 29, 2013, a day shy of his 85th birthday. He died at home in his bed in the arms of his wife. He was born November 30, 1928, in La Jolla, California, to parents William Arthur Snell and Ruby Orcutt Snell. He grew up on the beach where his grandfather, Arthur Thorpe Snell, owned and operated the Windansea Hotel La Jolla, California.
A hunter and gatherer from the onset, Charlie, at about the age of ten, collected and dove for abalone. He cleaned, pounded and sold to neighbors, three abalone for a dollar! He then made shell buttons, earrings, and necklaces to give as gifts and to sell. He continued creating shell jewelry to the day he died.
He and his high school sweetheart, Barbara Shafer, enjoyed the beaches, desert and mountains of Southern California, sharing a love of nature. Photography was a talent he learned while employed at Handley's Photo Shop, La Jolla. He and Barbara were high school photographers, using one of the first electronic strobe-lite flash attachments to his Speed Graphic Camera. He graduated La Jolla High School in 1947, vowing "never to attend school again." His education continued to expand through his life's work in natural sciences. He worked as an assistant at the San Diego Museum of Man, Balboa Park, where he photographed artifacts and exhibits.
He and Barbara married in 1950, they honeymooned at Luffenholtz Beach, Trinidad, California. There they met local Yuroks, Mamie Parton, Alice Spot, Minnie Shafer and other family members. It was their yearly Fish Camp, catching surf fish, drying them on the huge rock and fern covered sand. They were taught many important aspects of Yurok life. Mamie shared her knowledge and expertise in regalia making. Chuck introduced her to California Green Abalone and he would send her cut pieces to use, along with Olive and Nah-set shell. Charlie and Barbara also worked at his mother's restaurant, "Tiny's", at the corner of 4th and H St., Eureka, for a short period of time.
They returned to La Jolla in 1951 where he began his Commercial Abalone diving career. He worked the Abalone beds off the California Coast and Channel Islands until the late 1960's. He continued free sport diving on the Mendocino Coast to the age of 75.
"Trinidad Charlie" loved to buy, sell and trade. As a specimen shell collector and dealer, he explored the oceans of the world. In 1967 he and his mother opened the "Sea Around Us" on Main Street in Trinidad. The family business continues today.
He will be remembered as a gentle, quiet man who chose his words carefully, wisely, with wit and humor. The things he valued in life he passed on to his family. They include collecting wild mushrooms in the woods, harvesting mussels in season, wild berry picking, shell gathering, beachcombing, and just lying in the sun on the hot sand. We treasure our memories of many beach gatherings at Luffenholtz. A diving Cormorant was a sign, "the fish are running," and nets were thrown. The caught surf fish were cooked on sticks by the fire, relished by all.
He is greatly missed by his family, and friends. He was preceded in death by his youngest son, Charles Brian Snell, a crab fisherman, lost at sea 1986. He is survived by his wife, Barbara; his children, Lore Snell, Bill Snell and Karen Snell Hicks; his grandchildren, Jessica Cooper, Shelly Hope Bailey, Elizabeth, Ben, Philip, Charles Hicks, Jan-Brian Van Alten and Taylor Snell; and great-grandchildren, Cheyenne Bailey, Shilo Martin, Krystyn Holston, Frederick and Desmond Hicks and Noah Contreras.
We Love You – We Love You – We Love You
A celebration of his life will be held at Westhaven Center for the Arts on January 18, 2014, from 1-4 PM.